unfixed:σκιά σκιά σκιά ombra ombra ombra shadow shadow shadow comprised fourteen photographs staggered, a handful at a time, across an intended twenty-eight day period at Sutton Gallery in Naarm (Melbourne). On our first visit we encountered four photographs held out from the walls by thick steel pins. On the wall ahead of the entrance: a clock partially bathed in sun, a distant relative it doesn’t recognise. On the right, in black and white, people photographing ornate door handles while a man with a backpack looks down the street. The accordioned body of an old camera peeps out on a tripod from behind him above a sandal bearing the toes of a mystery figure. On the left hand wall are two more photos. One, of antique stopwatches under a milky window. The other, a body atomised into carved stone parts arranged on a museum wall, also black and white. We look at them for a while then walk into the office behind a gallery wall. We take turns perusing a book containing prints of all the images yet to come. The cover is touch sensitive, gathers our fingerprints.
By the two photographs of clocks we saw that first day alone, it would be tempting to regard unfixed as being principally about time. Add to this the many images taken inside museums and galleries—spaces whose core function can be understood as displaying time surmised in objects and the conservation of those objects against deterioration—that appear throughout the course of the show. Add to this the rotation of work over the forty-two day exhibition period, a period stymied then extended after COVID-19 restrictions forced the gallery to close, meaning, for much of the show, the works sat locked inside with the lights off. What amounts is an experience emphasising the chasm between organised time and the messy industry of the body. If we must say unfixed is about time, it is about time only inasmuch as a photograph of stone body parts is about a body—a configuration both subject to and in excess of an interfering logic.
These times, our times, were already marked by acceleration into a vexed future. Now a pandemic has, without ceremony, torn time off its hinges. Capital wants to stitch it all back up, make us forget it happened, evoke a return to some prior undeniable continuity. But the last two years exist not as an exception but as an unassimilable event: there can be no return. unfixed calls us not along nor against a track or timeline, but into a broad field.
Appearing in a later rotation of works were two wide scenes from Athens and Istanbul, both featuring sculptures of Janus’ face. In another, a scene at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, no Janus, but a woman reading a wall text entitled The Hellenistic and Roman World. Her shadow is entangled with a stranger's. We ingest and interpret quickly what the gallery and museum display, yet are haunted by the original locus of the objects: uncertainty, poetry, enigma, embodied in Janus herself, god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings. It is enticing here to merge Rudi with Janus, the rotating installations spill time in many scales; cosmic, geologic, archaeologic, historic, epochal and everyday.
One photo we return to, one of the most arresting of the bunch: a small trail of blood across white sheets. It strikes a markedly different tone than the other works. It’s more intimate, closely cropped. It feels surprising. In amongst the rigid galleys of museums, the pooled shadows of observers and buildings, and the city reflected in shop windows, is a softly dabbed reminder that bodies sleep and bleed, get sore backs in galleries, grow hungry, sweat and ache. Some bald, some ovulate. It's a reminder that the vastly different registers of time rendered and summoned by the photographs all ultimately flow through life functions. Like Janus, unfixed looks both ways—at the body, at the clock, then back at the body.